Robert Estrin - piano expert
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How to Hide Mistakes in Your Musical Performance

Practical tips for an ''almost'' perfect performance

Released on August 13, 2014

  
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Welcome to Virtual Sheet Music.com and Living Pianos.com. I'm Robert Estrin. Today's subject is how to disguise mistakes in your performance, that's right. You know, obviously we all practice so that we won't make any mistakes, but after all we are human, and I don't care who you are and how accomplished you are there are going to be times when things don't go as planned. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Maybe there's a problem with the instrument you're playing. Maybe there a distraction in the audience; it could be almost anything. A finger can slip, you know; things do happen. Your memory might fail you if it's a piano performance from memory. It could be many, many different factors.

Now the way that you really must think about a musical performance is with continuity and that is the secret of disguising any mistakes. Think of it this way; imagine a locomotive, a big, heavy train pulling a bunch of cars. Imagine it got off the tracks. This could be a total disaster, and just a imagine the wreckage that would ensue.

But if it manages to get back on those tracks, just flips off those tracks for a moment, and then manages to just get back on the track, it would a minor blip. It would be a very frightening moment for the engineer, but other people on the train might not even realize anything had happened. That's the same thing in musical performance. You must keep it moving.

Another analogy; you are watching a motion picture. Now in the olden days when they had actual film sometimes there would be a glitch and a momentary thing disrupts the picture and the timing would be off for just a moment and it's very jarring. In fact, if you were watching the movie and in the middle something happened and you were zoned out and weren't paying attention; you were thinking about other things, and if suddenly the time element just shifted a moment and either skipped or went back a moment it's jarring. It gets your attention.

So it is with a musical performance. Let me demonstrate by playing the beginning of the Appassionato Sonata of Beethoven and I'm going to purposely make a little mistake and then I'm going to be jarred for a moment and I'm going to go right on, but I'm going to take a moment where I lose the continuity of the timing. And listen how totally apparent it is.

Anyone in the audience, even if they have the most rudimentary knowledge of musical performance, will say, "Oh, my gosh; there was a mistake there." It's so obvious, because the timing is affected.

Now I'm going to make a similar mistake, but I'm going to keep on moving. And here's what you must do in a musical performance. You must keep your fingers going and keep thinking where you are in that performance. And I can tell you that there will be times in a musical performance if you play enough of them where you'll get completely discombobulated for a moment; and you must keep the music moving.

Now this is really essential if you're playing with other musicians, because if you lose your timing, then you're not going to be together with the rest of the group. So watch how much more tolerable a similar mistake is when the timing is maintained.

Now for any of you Beethoven purists, anybody intimately familiar with the piece, it's still pretty jarring. But for those no intimately familiar with the piece they won't notice at all. More than that, if it was in the middle of a long program the listener might almost think, did that actually happen or did I just imagine it. Sometimes you wonder if it was you or the performer, because if everything just continues going normally you forget about it. It's inconsequential, and that's the idea.

So this isn't about trying to make yourself look better than you are; it's not an ego thing. It is a gift to the audience, so they don't have to suffer through any problems you're having. They can just continue enjoying the music without being distracted by the piece, being keenly aware and taking them out of that magical moment.

So that's it for trying to hide your mistakes. Keep moving at all cost; the show must go on. All right, thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here at Virtual Sheet Music.com and Living Pianos.com.
 
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Comments/Questions/Requests:

Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on August 28, 2014 @2:05 pm PST
Great when it comes to performances. Now how about during practice at home, should I stop and repeat maybe the previous bar and the next one, many times? My eternal problem has been that no matter how well I know a piece, even a simple one and well memorized, I will be making one mistake, and it is not consistent where it will happen. It is a puzzle I have not been able to figure out why and how to fix it.
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Robert - host, on August 28, 2014 @3:05 pm PST
Practicing is completely different from performing. You generally should stop, correct the mistake, solidify the correction, then go back and pass the mistake. Sometimes however, you may want to practice performing with no one there just to see if you can go through a piece with out stopping - but that is the exception in practicing.
Juan Manuel * VSM MEMBER * on August 27, 2014 @5:17 am PST
This is one of the most important recommendations for all of us who perform. Thank you, Robert !
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